If you walk through a garden in India, you might spot an attractive bird nest sewn with the leaves of a plant. This nest will look unique since they are different from other bird’s nests. The tailorbird is the maker of this nest. Different species of tailorbirds make different kinds of the nest. They also use plant fiber, stolen household thread, insect silk, etc., to make the tailor bird nest. They make distinct loops knotted together on the outer regions of the nest. They devise several processes to give a distinct shape to their nests.
You will spot such tailorbirds mostly in South East Asia, India, Java, and Southern China. You will find this reddish-brown or greenish-yellow bird with its long tail pointing upwards. Many people study tailor bird nest making patterns, which is the unique feature of these birds. Therefore, if you spot such attractive bird nests in your garden or locality, you might find a tailorbird lurking around.
Family and Species of Tailorbirds
Tailorbirds are small in size belonging to the order Passeriformes, family Sylviidae, and the genus Orthotomus. The tailorbirds are often considered in the same family as that of the Old World warblers. However, recently, several researchers point out that they are more suitable in the Family Cisticolidae. Although, one species of tailorbird, the mountain tailorbird, and its sister species, the rufous-headed tailorbird, is considered to be closer to the Old World warbler of the genus Cettia.
There are thirteen species of tailorbird that belong to the Cisticolidae family. The most prominent amongst them is the common tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius).
Geographical Distribution of the Common Tailor Bird
As stated earlier, tailorbirds are geographically distributed in South East Asia. The common tailor bird is found throughout the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Java, southern China, and the Malay Peninsula. The tropical climate of these regions suits the lifestyle of these tailorbirds.
The tailorbird shows high adaptability when choosing the spot for its nest. They can build their nest in flower beds, hedges, or climbing herbs and shrubs that are strong enough to hold their nest. However, it prefers dense vegetation so that its nests are not visible to its predators. However, it can also build its nest in bamboo woodlands or even semi-desert shrublands, provided that there is enough cover for its nest.
You will often find tailorbirds stealing fibers from doormats which they use for making their nests. Although tailorbirds make much effort to hide their nests, they often fall victim to cuckoo birds, who lay their eggs in the nests of a tailorbird.
General Features of Tailorbird
The common tailorbird has a brightly colored coat. The upper parts of the body are bright green to yellow-green in color. The lower parts have a creamy hue. The body length of the common tailorbird is around 3.9 to 5.5 inches (10 to 14 centimeters). The average weight of the bird is 0.21 to 0.35 pounds (6 to 10 grams).
Their rounded wings are short. They also have strong legs to support the weight of the body while it is hanging onto its nest. It also has a long tail that is often pointed upwards. They resemble the wrens in terms of their tail. The tailor bird beak is sharp with a curved tip. The curved tip points towards the upper mandible. The crown of the bird is rufous.
Both the male and the female tailorbird resemble each other. However, the males develop long feathers in their central tails during the breeding season. Although they have bright feather colors, the juvenile birds appear dull. The dark patches present on its neck’s sides can be visualized when the bird is calling. These patches appear as dark gorget and are due to the presence of bare skin and dark pigments in those regions.
Fooding Habits of the Common Tailorbird
The common tailor bird resembles other warblers in their insectivorous feeding patterns. They make a loud cheer up-cherup sound while feeding, although the sound can change according to different population species. Such a bird call is called a disyllabic call. The birds keep on repeating this call.
Most of the time, the common tailorbird is found in pairs or solitude. They prefer to stay on the low branches or the ground. They feed on a variety of insects, like different kinds of bugs and beetles. They are more inclined to insects that get attracted to flowers. In particular, they favor mango inflorescences but are also attracted to the nectar of other flowers like Salmalia and Bombax. You might find a tailorbird with a golden yellow head; they are mainly the common variety with pollens covering their head.
Tailorbirds prefer to roost alone (during the non-breeding season) or with their partners (during the breeding season). Sometimes they have their juveniles sandwiched between them. They prefer roost sites on thin twigs that have covered around them. They prefer to stay near light and human habitation.
The Breeding Pattern of the Common Tailorbird
The common tailorbirds have an extended breeding season from March to December. However, their breeding peaks in the months of June to August, i.e., mainly during the monsoons. In Sri Lanka, they follow a different breeding season. However, they are found to breed throughout the year, their breeding peaks from March to May and then from August to September.
The tailorbird is named after the wonderful nests that they make. The tailor bird house is the most attractive feature of this bird. However, such nests are not unique only for all tailorbirds. Several species of Prinia warblers also make such wonderful nests.
The clutch size of a tailorbird is usually three eggs. The eggs have an incubation period of around 12 days. Both the male and the female tailorbird takes care of the young, including feeding and sanitation. The mortality rate of these young birds is very high due to the high risk of predation by crows, pheasants, cats, lizards, etc. The young birds take around 14 days to fledge. Either both the parents take part in incubation, or the males take care of the incubating females. The Plaintive Cuckoo is a common parasite in their nests.
The Nest Making Procedure of the Tailorbird
Most tailorbirds choose a spot in deep foliages so that they are not easy to detect. The nest of a tailor bird is lined with soft materials, mostly leaves. They make small punctures on the edges of the leaves so that it does not lead to browning. As the natural hue is maintained, the camouflage is restored. The bird can use two leaves to make the nest or a single leaf with its edges riveted together. The bird uses different techniques like riveting, sewing, matting, and lacing to bring the edges of the leaves.
Tailorbirds often use fibers that pass through the punctures in the form of sewing. They collect these fibers from trees, insect silk, and household items like doormats. They also use spiderwebs to make their nests. They apply different techniques to make a small cradle with these leaves. They introduce other materials in their nests to make them look safe.
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The Behavior of the Common Tailorbird
The common tailorbird is also famous for its distinctive behavior according to the situations it faces. Generally, it makes a tireless effort to look for food. It is commonly seen hopping across hedges, bushes, trees, and even grounds to search for tiny insects. They also search for flowers that produce nectars. During the process, they have their tail pointing high above and often wagging in a sidewise direction.
The flight of the bird is weak and erratic. Such a flight becomes an easy target for larger predators, especially if they have the ability to fly. It generally flies from one hideous patch to another, thus avoiding any open areas. Such behavior is required to avoid any flying predators. However, the common tailorbird does not consider humans as predators. They are surprisingly tame when they have their nests near human settlements.
The tailorbird always maintains a long-standing relationship with its partners. They prefer to live together in a static territory for the entire year. The common mode of communication between these partners is a long, monotonous, loud call: cheep cheep. However, they have a different call when they sense any danger, like the sighting of the common small sparrowhawk. Then they make alarm pit-pit calls for the entire period when the danger looms above.
The Tailorbird that Does Not Prefer to Live Near Humans
One of the two tailorbird species found in eastern Africa is the long-billed tailorbird (Orthotomus moreaui). This is a rare species that displays similar nest-building and designing skills. They are also similar in shape and size to other tailorbirds. However, this bird is rarely found near human habitats and prefers to live at altitudes around 2500 to 3500 meters, especially in some restricted regions of the Njesi Plateau and the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania.
The tailorbird is a native species to southeast Asia, especially in India, Sri Lanka, Java, and southern China. It is a small bird favoring tropical climates and is often found near human households. The most attractive feature of this bird is the unique nests that they make. They use the leaves of the tree, fabrics collected from households, insect silk, etc., to make their nests. They perform different sewing, riveting, matting, and lactating to make their nests. Both the parents take part in the development and care of the offspring. They are largely insectivorous, feeding on small insects and bugs. However, they also feed on nectar from different flowers.